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Seattle could become the first U.S. city to implement congestion pricing

• According to traffic analytics tracked by INRIX, Seattle was 9th for worst traffic congestion in America in 2017, with drivers spending an average of 55 hours each in peak hour traffic during 2017 at a per driver cost of $1,853.

• For every 1,000 residents of the region, there are 637 cars, which is the greatest cars per capita among America’s ten most densely populated big cities. Although carless households are now increasing faster than those with cars, the number of vehicles in the City is still increasing. Between 2010 and 2015 Seattle saw 12 percent growth in both its population and number of vehicles. 

• In April of 2018, Seattle’s Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that the City will be developing a congestion pricing strategy as a tool for easing the increasingly burdensome traffic that Seattle and the Puget Sound region is experiencing. The pricing strategy would include tolls that would be added to city streets in order to disincentive vehicles from entering some of the more heavily-used Seattle roadways, pushing passengers away from single-occupancy vehicles and towards alternate travel modes. Any tolling scenario would be implemented with significant increases in public transit options, which would be partially funded by the tolling revenues. The Mayor is targeting 2021 for implementation of the pricing strategy.

• Targeted benefits of a congestion pricing strategy include eased traffic, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, shorter travel times, safer travel for vehicles and other modes of travel, and funding for increased transit capacity. The small behavioral changes that the pricing strategy may create on the individual level could potentially add up to big impacts on the roadway system.

• Although the City has determined how the tolls would work in Seattle yet, a likely approach is a “zoned” system where a heavily used area (such as downtown or South Lake Union) would require all vehicles coming into that zone to pay a toll for entering during certain hours.

• As the City looks to develop the proposed tolling system, many eyes will be on the existing models of congestion pricing in London, Stockholm, Singapore, and Milan where traffic has been reduced by 15 to 50 percent. 

Source: JLL Research

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